Two Native American words from different regions of the state were joined in the most unlikely way last week.
On May 31, the first round of recycled materials from the former Tappan Zee Bridge, which got its name from the Algonquin word for a tribe along the Hudson River and the Dutch word for water, was dropped into the Atlantic Ocean near Shinnecock Inlet. The old bridge material was brought in to help bolster an artificial reef in an effort to boost marine life.
Over 1000 tons of materials were added to the 35-acre Shinnecock Reef, which is located two nautical miles from shore and is 85 feet at its deepest point. Barges dropped 885 tons of recycled and decontaminated material from the former Tappan Zee Bridge, as well as deconstructed state Department of Transportation project materials, including triangular trusses, concrete deck panels, steel beams, girders, and foundation pipes.
The state also placed three decommissioned canal boats at the reef, including a 110-foot barge, 74-foot tugboat, and 40-foot tender.
The installation was launched in person by Governor Andrew Cuomo as part of his statewide reef restoration that expands on his “Open for Fishing and Hunting Initiative,” an effort to improve recreational activities and to boost tourism opportunities throughout the state. The reef restoration program will bolster 12 artificial reefs off the shores of Long Island in the largest expansion of artificial reefs in state history.
The materials will be strategically placed to improve the state’s diverse marine life and boost Long Island’s recreational, sport fishing, and diving industries. In addition to the inaugural expansion of the Shinnecock Reef, five additional reef sites will be enhanced this year at sites off the shores of Moriches, Fire Island, Smithtown, Hempstead, and Rockaway.
Cuomo noted the importance the reef restoration will have on the state’s economy, by supporting nearly 350,000 jobs and generating billions of dollars through tourism, fishing, and other industries.
“Long Island’s economy thrives when there are fish for anglers to catch and recreational opportunities to explore marine life along the coast,” said the governor. “These artificial reefs are an investment in a stronger, more diverse marine ecosystem that will bolster the economy and bring a new purpose to the former Tappan Zee Bridge that will continue to serve New Yorkers for generations to come.”
Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said the governor is leading the way toward improving Long Island’s water quality and restoring our marine ecosystems. “This is a critical step to ensuring the health and economic well-being of our region, and I thank the governor for his continued commitment to protecting our environment,” he said.
State Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos said the innovative program, which reuses waste materials from infrastructure projects, will expand the state’s critical network of artificial reefs that support local economies and improve the health of our fisheries.
“Through Governor Cuomo’s leadership, our communities, anglers, and environment all stand to benefit from the state’s largest expansion of the artificial reef program,” he added.
Bill Ulfelder, executive director for The Nature Conservancy in New York, called it an exciting moment for diving and fishing enthusiasts, and an important step for marine life. “The Nature Conservancy applauds Governor Cuomo and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation for moving this exciting initiative forward,” he said.
“On Long Island and across New York our economy, health, and way of life all depend on nature. Like other initiatives recently announced by Governor Cuomo aimed at improving water quality and revitalizing shellfish and ocean life, this project is a win for New York’s fishermen, coastal communities, and ocean,” said Ulfelder.
Shinnecock Indian Nation Tribal Trustee Lance Gumbs said the initiative will help improve the economy by increasing fishing opportunities. He said the installation was a sight worth seeing.
“It’s interesting. They are dropping pieces of the Tappan Zee and you can see them splashing into the water,” he said.